The "City of Bridges," Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. PNC Park is just visible in the background at left.
For some reason, the Pirates always manage to be out of town when I'm in Pittsburgh. I think they're avoiding me. If they were playing any games, I'd have gone to one, but since they weren't, I dragged a friend with me on a tour of the ballpark instead.
There was $3 parking in a big lot between Heinz Field and PNC Park. There's a street named after Tony D between the stadiums:
I guess because his college career was with Pitt.
Then there's this street, a traumatic name to Yankee fans everywhere.
(Mickey Mantle said he never got over the 1960 World Series.)
Tours of PNC Park run during baseball season, whenever the team is out of town. It's $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and kids. (Children under 5 are free.)
The tour starts by the statue of Willie Stargell.
You don't have to make reservations. The tours tend to be very small, and don't sell out. There were only three people on mine: me, my friend, and a guy from Wisconsin who was in town to see the NHL playoffs. Which was kind of neat, since our guide could tailor the tour to our interests.
It started out with video of great moments in Pirates history. The really early film was pretty cool, just because I didn't know it existed. I figured Maz's walkoff homer would be featured, and it was. My friend was actually there, as a preteen kid who had walked over after school, and the tour guide was about her age, and remembered it well, even though he wasn't at the game. The hockey fan, like me, wasn't even born yet then, and was astonished that the World Series was played during the day, and that they let people in free after the 6th inning.
Mazeroski's Hall of Fame jersey is on display in one of the restaurants at the park:
Also featured in the highlight reel was Rob Mackowiak's walkoff grand slam. My friend was shocked to hear he was a Louisville Bat last year.
After the video, we toured Highmark Legacy Square, which honors the history of the Negro Leagues. There are statues of players, and kiosks with videos and other information. (Might be best to go on a cloudy day if you're interested in this. It's kind of hard to see the videos in bright sunlight.)
After that, we explored the field level. We weren't allowed on the grass, but we could walk along the warning track and sit in the dugout.
From the dugout, we went down the tunnel toward the clubhouse. The public is never allowed in the clubhouse. Presumably because the players' belongings are in their lockers during the season, and they don't do tours in the off-season. They did have photos up, showing what the clubhouse looked like. The lockers, the cafeteria, the medical section. There are forty lockers, in case the Pirates call up the maximum number of minor leaguers when rosters expand in September.
We did get to see the indoor batting cages:
The astroturf is salvaged from Three Rivers Stadium. You can still see the faded hashmarks and yardline numbers if you look closely.
The image of a pitcher is projected onto the white screen. You can program left or right handed pitchers, and different kinds of pitches, and the ball is released from different positions to simulate live pitching. Our guide said the players complain about the white screen, saying it makes it hard to pick up the ball.
Also on that level is the visiting team's locker room, and the umpires' dressing rooms. Yes, rooms. PNC Park has two umpires' dressing rooms. They anticipated having female umpires one day, and planned accordingly.
From there, we took the elevator to the top floor, where the press box is located. Man, do they have a nice view. Glass walls all around. This is the view from the back of the press box. Heinz Field can be seen in the background, at left.
And here's the view from the front. There are desks, chairs, and Internet access points for about 120 reporters, though typically there are only 40 there for games. (They did need them all for the All-Star game.)
You can see the grounds crew in the process of mowing a fancy design into the grass. The Pirates grounds crew takes pride in their creative lawn-mowing.
From there, it was down to see the various seating options.
The roof of the "Rotunda," the big circular ramp that moves fans from level to level:
Here's the "Flight Deck":
It's their party deck. It's also the section that goes to the dogs on "Bark in the Park" day.
The private suites were very nice. They cost $5,000 per game, and come with 40 tickets and some parking passes. And food. (You get to choose from several menus.) Not a bad deal. The Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly rented two of these suites, side-by-side, for a game on one of their off days last week.
There are chairs and tables inside, along with a kitchen and buffet setup. There's a door that leads outside, to seats with tables in front of them, if you want to sit outside instead.
The seats right behind home plate come with access to a private club:
They also rent it out for weddings and such.
There's all kinds of memorabilia displayed throughout the park. This display of Pirates hats includes the infamous '70s gold-striped pillbox hat:
This is a replica of the 1903 jersey. It was made of wool, and had a high collar to protect the player's neck from the sun. Must have been hotter than the hinges of hell. (Our guide said most kids assume the little pocket was used to carry a cell phone. It was actually for tobacco.)
The view from the seats below the press box:
After the tour, we went around the ballpark, down to the river. A statue of Roberto Clemente stands guard at the corner of the stadium.
There's dirt from three different ballparks at the corners of the square on the statue's base.
There's a sign down by the river, on the site of the first World Series:
All in all, it was worth the $7. Especially since my friend paid. :-)